A Look at the Full-Length Version of the 2012 Oscar Winning Film Curfew
Director: SHAWN CHRISTENSEN/2014
Shawn Christensen directs a full-length version of the 2012 Oscar winning short film Curfew with his latest offering called Before I Disappear. Serving as the writer, director, and star of the film, Shawn Christensen is front and center playing a petty criminal and junky named Richie, who stumbles across a woman who has overdosed in the bathroom he is cleaning at his late night job in the club owned by Bill (Ron Perlman-Hellboy, Pacific Rim). Bill seeks to quietly get rid of the body, asking for Richie’s silence, so as to avoid the negative attention that might shut down his business.
Richie spends a good portion of the film writing to a girl named Vista (Isabelle McNally-Frances Ha) who is no longer in his life, and who may or may not be dead. Whatever the reason, Ritchie has no intention of talking about the girl he discovered in Bill’s club because his plan is to disappear….forever.
Drugs, booze, and suicide attempts are a daily way of life for Ritchie. He owes the wrong people money and he’s hoping to check out before they can reach him to collect payment. Sitting in his bathtub, that is red with blood that is slowly flowing from his freshly cut wrist, Ritchie gets a call that interrupts his date with death.
Emmy Rossum (Mystic River, The Day After Tomorrow) plays Maggie, Ritchie’s sister who hasn’t spoken to him in five years. She is a contrast of Ritchie. His life is the gutter. Her life is in a penthouse with a high level job and a daughter (who is so smart she is studying to skip the 6thgrade). Fatima Ptacek (Dora the Explorer) plays Maggie’s daughter Sophia.
The phone call that interrupts Ritchie’s suicide attempt is a frantic call from Maggie to pick Sophia up from school. When that one act turns into a nearly 24 hour experience, Ritchie is forced to confront all of the events that have been swirling in his life. The dead girl in the bathroom, the money he owes to the wrong people, his drug habit, to a local crime lord’s missing girlfriend all begin to confront him directly and he is bringing his young niece, who knows nothing of his world, into it all. Each event that weaves in and out of his life is just something else to deal with before he disappears.
Christensen paints a dark canvas of New York City’s nightlife that is rich and believable. The script creates characters that are relatable and recognizable, yet are not fully fleshed out. Specifically the backstory between Ritchie and his lost love Vista. We are given glimpses and certain details, but not enough to help us fully empathize with his pain, or why he is deciding to end it all. We also could have experienced more interaction between Ritchie and his sister Maggie. The scenes they do have together are strong scenes to anchor their characters too, but they are too few. Fatima Ptacek is breath of fresh air amidst the darkness of Ritchie’s world and a sort of redeemer for Ritchie, if only temporarily. It is this relationship that centers the film.
Before I Disappear is a solid entry from Shawn Christensen, and he’ll be someone to watch in the coming years to see if he breaks into more mainstream fare. His talent is on display, but unfortunately the film is too uneven on the whole to truly find a wider audience beyond those who enjoyed the short film version of this story, Curfew.
Before I Disappear opens this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse and other select theaters.